God's Voice

What's Going on When God Feels Silent

By Mollie Talbot

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[A letter from the trenches]

It’s at the point that the word “season” makes me want to hurl. I stood in my kitchen with one of my best friends the other day, laughing at how one can loathe a completely innocuous word because of its use in Christian circles. I don’t hate seasons, as in the four of them, but right now I hate “it’s just a hard season you’re going through.” I repel most Christianese platitudes at this point too: “let go and let God,” “God must be preparing you for something big,” “He has a plan,” “You just need to trust,” “Everything happens for a reason,” or my favorite, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that’s what our walk with Christ hinges upon--periods of time when we can’t even handle putting our feet to the floor in the morning.

I guess if people can’t sit comfortably with someone IN their pain and do feel the need to say something, I’d rather it be trite but positive rather than comparative or commiserative. They need to understand they’re only saying it to comfort themselves, not the person suffering. As a woman writing from the trenches, these awkward back-pat sayings fall flat, or worse, condescending and offensive. If I could “let go” of this “SEASON,” I would have six months ago. If trust were acquired as easily as, “you just need to trust God,” I’d no longer be seeing a counselor, doctor, naturopath, or acupuncturist.

Here’s the obvious: I am simply incapable of “letting go” of a weight that hits my defeated amygdala upon opening my heavy eyes and moving my exhausted body. I can’t magically muster more “trust” in the moments when I recognize the utter disappearance of healthy coping or muster patience for a child irrationally angry about the way his French toast was cut for him. Now for the more important reality: if I tried to mentally will this discomfort away, I’d be avoiding what God is doing in these moments of thinking and hurting. To “let go” or assign any other platitude to my pain would be disobedient for a human who was designed to think, feel, and grow from doing both.

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John Mark Comer of Bridgetown church in Portland, OR is doing a series on stage theory right now, and his obedience to discuss the dark, discouraging, unattractive but REAL aspects of our Christian journey has been breath on these dry bones. And here in my trench, it makes perfect sense.

To painfully oversimplify some of the information he’s teaching from for the sake of brevity, we all experience a first stage in our walk with Christ that involves what we perceive to be an emotionally near experience of God. There’s an increased “felt presence” in our first spiritual phase.

The explanation given was sweet to my fragmented heart. It’s not that God butters us up just to go distant; it’s that His grace in this first stage loves us by breaking our reliance on the world. He displays the marvel of His love for us by meeting our world-dumbed hearts where they are, fully dependent on fuzzy feelings of contentment. The problem is that in our pleasure principal mentality, we set up camp here in our faith and then question God’s goodness if the fuzzy felt experience of His presence changes. Bottom line: as in any relationship, it does and it will.

It’s to the point in my struggles with dead cat-grief, low testosterone, PTSD, chemical imbalances, trauma recovery, and the demands of motherhood that I might be delusional. But I no longer have any desire for this first phase faith; a season I was in as recent as a year ago. The box-checking and identity masking; the black and white lines I’d draw around the mistakes of others just in the hope of hiding my greys. The belief that I had to be something else to fit the Christian mom mold. Even looking back at it is stifling.

I would rather sit in my perception of God’s absence right now because, with a deep knowing that wasn’t available a year ago, I believe the opposite to be true. He is more with me now than ever. There was no depth in my first phase faith. No call to the creational spice God shook over me at my inception saying, “use these and change the world.” In these depths--in moments it feels like the 20 years of tears I’ve been shoving away are a tsunami breaking over my soul--I’m emptying myself to receive who HE is, what HE made me capable of, and how HE sees others. It’ll be scary, uncertain, and the pain will be bone-deep, but I’ll use the stars He laid to find my way; the compass I’ve been carrying only had me following others anyway. All He wants from me is to stay open; to receive, to change, and to grow.

I’m beginning to feel more powerful in the deep; in this perceived ‘absence’ of God. I don’t have the energy any longer to say “yes” when I’ve wanted to say “no.” I don’t mince words when asserting boundary lines that I previously people-pleased away. And I’m confronting my deepest life traumas with nothing but a butter knife because of the confidence that comes from God reminding me that the giant was already slain by me getting out of bed.

It’s in the reversal of the comfort platitudes that I’m finding focus. He has trusted ME with the depth; I don’t need to shame myself about not trusting Him enough. He believed that even if He changed His voice to a whisper that I would empty myself in order to hear it. He’s showing me that a box-checking, bubblegum faith is never what He asked of me in the first place. He’s even good with my hatred of the word “season.”

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
— Luke 14:28-30

I will not be one who began building just to find their resources foolishly depleted and their project in ruins. I estimated the cost of following Him when He pulled me from the pain of my addiction and when He placed me next to people who have lost babies, lost parents, and those who are losing themselves while saying, “I know He’s still there.” I’ve known the depth apart from God, but now I know depth WITH Him and the difference is that on this side, I’m willing to keep digging.

If you find yourself in a dark night, stop box checking and finish-line gazing and seek Him in the treatment and care of yourself. If you find that His voice feels disappointed, punishing, or despairing, check your volume dials--you’ve got the wrong side turned up. He may be quiet right now but that’s because He’s begun teaching you a language He’s reserved solely for you and Him. Give yourself time and tenderness as you unlearn the voices you’ve come to assume were His. Don’t be afraid to question, cry out, and break down. This is the kind of faith that moves mountains and slays giants; all you need is a broken compass and your butter knife. I’m in it with you.


Tuning into God's Voice in Motherhood

By Brittany Rust

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Washers and dryers running. Kids yelling as they chase each other around the house. Hungry baby cries. The inner to-do list for the day running through your mind. There’s no shortage of noise in the life of a mom. And that’s just the practical. You might also struggle with cultural distractions to mother with a certain finesse and play supermom. Comparison, fear, doubt, and insecurity clamor for your attention. You’re bombarded with voices all the time—and it can be both overwhelming and exhausting.

Elijah was bombarded with great acts that many assume God would be in. Yet, God wasn’t in the fire or wind—He was in the gentle whisper.

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
— 1 Kings 19:11-13
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In motherhood, it’s easy to be distracted by all the things. However, it’s never more important than in parenting to silence the noises and tune into one: His. It’s this intimate connection that gives you strength when you are weak. That gives you the tools to parent in grace. That sustains you in the exhaustion and discouragement. And it’s this connection that leads you in wisdom when it comes to discipling or correcting or leading your child. It’s vital to your role as a mother.

So, how do you tune into God’s voice and push away all the others? They are practical and may seem obvious, but these three practices are foundational to hearing His voice.

How to hear God’s voice

1.Read the Bible.

The Bible is God’s only definitive word we have and by reading it, you can learn about His character, discover what He cares about, and uncover His revealed will for your life. There is no doubt that if you aren’t in Scripture, you will have a hard time hearing from Him.

Even is it’s a few verses at a time, try to get something in you each day. This will help you in hearing from Him and lend to you flourishing in parenthood.

I know when you’re chasing kids around it can be a challenge to carve out a devotional time but it’s also the single most important thing you can do each day. If you’re not in His Word to be refreshed, you’ll start operating out of your own strength and in that limitation, struggle in your parenting. You need Jesus! And your kids will be better off with a mama who prioritizes her spiritual walk with the Lord.

2. Pray.

Regular communication is necessary for any healthy relationship and it’s no different in your relationship with God. Conversation helps to know one’s voice. When you take time to communicate with God regularly, and listen in return, you will be cultivating an ear for His voice.

3. Practice.

If you feel the smallest inkling to step out and act, do it. Put your faith into action. By practice, you will learn what is and isn’t God’s voice. Maybe you step out and find it wasn’t God’s voice—that’s okay. In that experience you’ll learn what isn’t God’s voice. You can learn from what worked and what didn’t work—and the more you practice, you’ll discern what God’s voice sounds like.

If you will start implementing these three practices in your daily routine, I am confident that you’ll cultivate a greater intimacy with God, learn to discern His voice, and have His guidance in the matters of motherhood.

** This blog is based on a portion of Brittany’s new book, Here I Am: Responding When God Calls Your Name. Grab your copy to further learn to discern His voice, how you can overcome doubt and fear, and learn how to step confidently into your calling.